A couple of days ago, I went to see a place. It was three bedrooms, $700 in Kiryat Moshe, in a nice building, but the apartment itself was falling to pieces. Still, it had a roof. I had called the owner for a week solid before someone picked up the phone. That someone, who later turned out to be a lawyer managing the property for an absentee owner, then forwarded me to a real estate agent, who arranged the appointment. When I got to the apartment, after sitting for an hour and a half after the agent had said he would be there, four other people also came to see the apartment. The agent demanded a $700 finder's fee even though we had done the legwork and researched the apartment.
I went home and thought about it, and decided to call the realtor with an offer. Turns out that both the lawyer who is managing the property and the real estaqte agent who'se trying to rent it out wanted $700. I.e., they wanted $1400 in fees before I would even start to pay $700 in rent. I was going to make a counteroffer of $650 per month, plus $650 for the agent and $300 for the lawyer. The lawyer told me to call him back the next morning with my offer. He then called me yesterday morning before I could call him and he told me that they had rented the apartment to someone else, and that he had promised it to her before he even asked me for an offer.
I went to another place today in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood, 3 room (2-br), $700, like the last one. The ad went up at 9 PM last night. The guy showed up at around 2:30 PM looking haggard. He told me that he had received seventy separate phonecalls for this same apartment since he woke up that morning. He was as shocked as anyone, and didn't realize that the Jerusalem real estate market was so desparate. Five other people were there to look at the apartment, and more were on the way when I left. One guy offered a full year's rent in advance. I didn't have that kind of cash handy, so I offered $750/month. He asked me if I would have roommates, and I answered honestly, that I probably would have to. His expression seemed to hint that I wouldn't be getting the place.
It seems that these landlords prefer to rent to families rather than singles, so I can say with confidence, given the tightness of the market, that I will probably not be able to get anything more than a two-room apartment, if I can even get that. I'm beginning to realize that not picking up the lease on my old apartment, $100 price hike and all, was probably my biggest mistake since making aliyah. Of course, the decision made perfect sense at the time since I had the place in San Simon all lined up.
Anyway, I'm in Modiin now, crashing at Moish and Deena's place. We're basically sleeping in shifts. Moish works from 11PM till 6AM. Then he comes home and sleeps. Deena and Rivka (daughter, 6) sleep in their room from about 10 PM - 6AM, and I sleep in Rivka's bedroom from 12AM-8AM.
Meanwhile, Yigal found a place in Ashdod and rented it last night. He can't afford the housing market in Jerusalem and so decided to commute from Ashdod to Jerusalem, over an hour each way, every day rather than rent a place here. He's been trying to get me to move out there as well. He got a huge place, 1-BR, everythign included (gas, electricity, arnona, water) for $550. It's tempting, but the fact is, my whole life is in Jerusalem. My yeshivah, my friends, my shidduchim, and my family. Still, it may simply turn out to be impossible to rent anything here.